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How to Gain Permanent Residence in China

China is currently the financial powerhouse of the world, setting records for economic growth even in 2021 as we recover from COVID-19. According to the latest statistics, China’s GDP grew by a staggering 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Given its excellent economic growth, the opportunities when it comes to work and setting up business in China are substantial. Despite all of the economic optimism, there is a great deal of confusion and lack of understanding regarding the immigration system in China. In this article, we will outline the main routes to gain permanent residence in China.

What Are The Main Routes To Permanent Residence In China?

There are four primary routes to permanent residence in China:

  • Employment
  • Business/investment
  • Special contribution
  • Family

Each of these options provides a potential route to gaining a ‘China Green Card’ – a permanent resident ID card that allows overseas nationals the right to reside in China on an indefinite basis. The eligibility threshold for the China Green Card is set high; hence, if this is your intention, it is important to ensure you are on the correct track and understand the process before you arrive in China.

How Can I Acquire A China Green Card Through Investment?

The rules state that foreign investors seeking a Green Card need to have made a direct investment in China which has resulted in ‘stable operations’, and the business must have paid all taxes owing over a period of at least three years.

The level of investment needed to acquire a Green Card varies based on industry and general area where the money has been invested, as follows:

  • Investment in any sector in the official ‘Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries’ – requires an investment of at least $500,000. The catalogue outlines industries which are encouraged, restricted, or prohibited. For example, manufacturing in a wide range of sectors is encouraged, but utility-based services are restricted (e.g. water and telecommunications). Foreign investment in manufacturing in protected sectors such as green tea and Chinese medicines is typically not allowed.
  • Investment in western China in any region for poverty alleviation effort – requires an investment of at least $500,000.
  • Investment in Central China - requires an investment of at least $1m.
  • Investment in China (outside of the above regions) - requires an investment of at least $2m.

How Can I Acquire A China Green Card Through Employment?

China allows certain applicants with eligible jobs to acquire a Green Card, these include:

  • Deputy general managers and deputy factory directors (or above)
  • Associate professors
  • Associate research fellows
  • Other associate senior titles in professional roles

Applicants must have a minimum of four years of experience in a qualifying role, of which three years must have been spent in China. A strong record of payment of taxes in China is also essential. The Chinese immigration rules also state that those applying for a Green Card through the employment route must have a role with:

  • An institution subordinate to any department of the State Council or the people’s Government at a provincial level;
  • A key college or university in China;
  • An enterprise or government-sponsored institution implementing a national key engineering project or major scientific research project, or;
  • A high-tech enterprise, foreign-invested enterprise in encouraged fields (as explained above), advanced technology enterprise with foreign investment, or export-oriented enterprise with foreign investment.

How Can I Acquire A China Green Card Through The Special Contribution Route?

To acquire a China Green Card through the Special Contribution route, applicants must have made an outstanding contribution to China or by being ‘specially needed’. To make a successful application, a formal letter of recommendation and ‘related certificates’ must be Issued By The Chinese Government.

How Can I Acquire Permanent Residency Through An Existing Green Card Holder?

Under this route, it is possible for a spouse or dependant child under 18 of an overseas national who has acquired a China Green Card through either the investment, employment, or Special Contribution routes to apply for permanent residency. Applicants need to provide a marriage, birth, or adoption certificate as evidence of an eligible relationship.

How Can I Acquire A China Green Card Through A Family In China?

The final route to a Green Card in China is available to foreign nationals with family in China. This is available to those who are married to a Chinese citizen or a person who has held permanent residency in China who has had five consecutive years of residence (with at least nine months in each year) and have a ‘stable source of subsistence’ and a place to live. To apply under this route, applicants need to provide:

  • Their Chinese spouse’s registered permanent residence certificate, or if they are a foreign national, their ‘Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card’
  • A valid marriage certificate
  • A notarised certificate of the source of subsistence
  • A house lease document or proof of ownership

It is also possible for children under 18 to acquire a China Green Card. Applicants must be dependant on their family member/s in China (i.e. not married). Proof of the relationship will also be needed, in the form of:

  • The Chinese parent’s household registration certificate or their ‘Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card’
  • A valid birth certificate or adoption certificate

Those who are over 60 years with relatives in China who are willing to sponsor them (they must not have direct relatives in another country) who have lived in China for at least five consecutive years with at least nine months of residence in China for each of these, and have a stable source of income and a place to live, can also apply for a Green Card.

Final Words

The above is only a very high-level summary of the routes to acquire a Green Card in China. If you require more details on the most suitable option based on your background and your future plans, speak to an immigration lawyer who will be able to guide you through the process and help you to make a successful application with the minimum of inconvenience. We wish you all the very best with your new life in China.

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